Charles Summers


 

Preferred Name: Charlie

Nickname/Call Sign: Misty 41

Date of Birth: August 21, 1935

Highest Military Grade Held: Colonel

Hometown: Hershey, NE

Biography

  Charlie Summers – Stormy Weather I had a midair collision flying fighters. I was in a thunderstorm, so I guess that was my first introduction to the idea that ‘thunderstorms are bad; stay away from them.’ I had to fly one of two airplanes out of Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, and at that time the F-100 had no onboard radar. The number 2 and I were being vectored by our radar, and they vectored us right into a thunderstorm. I lost lead because hail had started breaking things off the airplane. When I heard the noise, I looked away for a split second to see how the engine was doing. The compressor had stalled with due to hail coming in the intake and when I looked back, we (the number 2 and I) weren’t together, and then — maybe 30 seconds later – we hit each other. It knocked the tail off his airplane and knocked part of the wing off the left side of mine — fortunately, we got both airplanes back to base. That was my first introduction to thunderstorms, and at that point, my attitude was “If there’s one in the county, be in the next state.” Little did I know what the future held for me and stormy weather. I grew up on a farm so I knew machinery and I knew farm work, and I knew I wanted to do something that wasn’t that hard. Every airplane that flew over made me think, ‘Now, that guy’s not working as hard as I am down here.’ I started flying in my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska, joined the Air Force ROTC, and by the time I had graduated I had a commercial pilot rating. Once I joined the Air Force it quickly got my attention that they flew a little more precisely that I had as a commercial civilian pilot, and I adjusted and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. After Air Force pilot training, I went to F-100s and I flew them for a long, long time — three tours in Vietnam — then I got some time in the F-4. I was wing commander in Korea, then I retired from the Air Force to go back to flying. My wife was still in the Air Force — she’s an Air Force nurse, retired now. I followed her around for a while, so I flew in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi before she retired. I flew mostly corporate and some flight training, just a little bit of everything, and then she got assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City. She liked it here, so she retired here and she let me stay with her. After I retired from the Air Force I began flying as a research scientist for the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, flying the T-28 which I’d flown in the Air Force. I flew thunderstorm penetration flights even though I had spent my life avoiding thunderstorms while flying. That one scrape at Cannon AFB confirmed that they were trouble. The first time I put the pointy end of the airplane toward a thunderstorm and went in, I thought, ‘This is not totally comfortable.’ But the airplane had been doing it — at that time for 16 years — and it never failed to get out on the other side, so all I had to do was fly it. The equipment is built and modified to be able to take it, so all I had to do was fly through it. After the first couple flights, my confidence built and I realized both the plane and I could handle the job. Source: Some quotes from an article in AVWeb by Joe Godfrey, April 16, 2003

Caterpillar Story…The Security Blanket

I was flying no. 2 in a three ship with Dale Sprotberry in lead and Bob Finley as #3.  We dropped our bombs and made 3 or 4 strafe passes.  On my last strafe pass I got hit and started to stream hydraulic fluid or fuel.  I started a turn to the right toward the friendly Fort and Sprot called me to get out as I was at about 1500 feet in the right turn. My intent was to bailout near the Fort.  Then the stick froze and I couldn’t get out of the right turn or pull up.  I was in a slight descent with both feet on the instrument panel when I reached for the left seat handle with my right hand on the stick.  The canopy fired and I pulled the left seat trigger with my other hand, pulling back on the stick with my feet still on the instrument panel. (A note: I had just completed jump school a month or two before). I had my zero lanyard connected and I watched as I cleared the tail and went inverted when the butt snapper pushed me out of the seat; I would guess I was under 1000 feet.  I didn’t know that my .38 pistol grip was under my chest strap so when the chute opened the force broke one rib, couldn’t get my breath and started to vomit.  I remembered a story about a pilot drowning in his vomit so I took my mask off but still could not breathe because of the rib injury.  For some dumb reason, I inflated my Mae West1.  I then hit in a marsh with 10-foot scrub brush and a foot of water. My big problem was that during this whole bail out I had flown directly back into the target area we had just bombed.  I was getting ground fire which I thought was very inaccurate, but they were really shooting at the FAC overhead.   I quickly tried to get away from the chute and left the beeper in the chute in the ON mode. Now I couldn’t use guard channel and I found my escape was slowed by a broken back.  I had fractured 3 vertebrae in my back on the ejection and could now only crawl after I tried to run and hit a small tree twice. I had only lasted two steps before I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.  I was trying to move toward the Fort but had a long way to go and the bad guys were in between. I would have also had to swim a canal which would not have worked. I did have some company very close as I could hear him work the bolt on his bolt action single shot gun.  Thank heaven I was now away from the chute and in thick brush and water so I could hear anyone approaching. Suddenly, I heard the best sound a scared pilot can ever hear.  The cavalry was on the way as I could hear helicopters approaching from the West.  One was landing and the other was providing support fire around the
area. My day went from bad to worse as the first helo landed on the chute.  I saw it fly in the air and then complete silence as the helo pilot had just sucked my chute up in the main rotor and then the tail rotor and executed a quick dead stick landing.  I almost made a bad tactical error as I crawled up to the helo on the co-pilot side and quickly parted the grass and to my surprise was staring into the round end of an Army 45 with a very young scared co-pilot about to pull the trigger.  I was blonde with a crew cut but my face was beaten up a lot and bleeding but my famous words were “DON’T SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT”.  The A/C was relieved as he thought I was still in the chute. (I am here today because the Co-pilot wasn’t too trigger happy). At the time I’m feeling a little safer, somewhat, at least more fire power was available, as the door gunner/crew chief had an M-60.  The helo now held a South Vietnamese village chief, 250 pounds of rice, plus the three crew members and we weren’t going anywhere.  The A\C told the crew chief to stand on top of the helo and unwind the chute to which the crew chief replied, “ No, I don’t want to stand on top of a helo so the VC can have target practice!”  The A/C was then relieved to see the other helo land about 20 yards away to pick us all up. The entire herd headed for the other chopper and I have to crawl through brush, I’m not making very much headway so the crew chief came back and helped me get to the good helicopter.  Now there is even more firepower and a running helo but then the SVN village chief jumps out and starts back to the dead helo to get his suitcase. I witnessed an excellent combat decision as the door gunner fired his M-60 about 5 feet from him and he turned in mid-air and in two steps was back in our helo. I relaxed as my bad day was getting better.  We were really heavy but got airborne only to have two, helicopter eating trees, approaching ahead that and above us.  Our excellent Army pilot put our helo between both trees with little room to spare.  I don’t know where we landed but I was transferred to a Dust Off  Army Medavac helo and headed North to somewhere. I’m not sure how long the flight was as I kept passing out but we landed at an Army MASH unit and I was rushed into a tent with an X-ray machine. The troops cut off all my clothes.  You can’t imagine how alert and still I was when they cut my jockey shorts off.  At this point I have nothing on except my dog tags. I went into shock and could not stop shaking violently and am a very embarrassed fighter pilot, but the solution was a shot from the Doc. and I don’t know what it was but it’s effects had me trying to organize a posse to go back South and clean out the Delta of all those airplane-shooting Viet Cong.  Unfortunately, the Army discovered their X Ray machine was broken, so back in the helo I went, pressing on North to Tan Son Nhut Airbase and the Army Field Hospital.  We landed on the civilian airline terminal ramp where a Vietnamese airliner is loading passengers and we are met by my squadron’s flight surgeon and an Air Force ambulance. The next event was captured by a Stars and Stripes photographer and picture came out in the Air Force magazine.  The Army chopper crew chief told our flight surgeon that my naked body is wrapped in his last blanket and he can’t take off without at least one blanket.  I say that it is my blanket and I am not giving it up out here on the civilian terminal ramp.  The myth about fighter pilots was not going to revealed to be false by me so I had a death grip on my blanket. Our flight surgeon found a less than perfect blanket in the ambulance and the stalemate was broken and I am finally, happily on my way to the Army Field Hospital. I was taken back at Tan Son Nhut where my mission started but without one F-100D. The story continues from there, my medical experience lasted a few more weeks and became a lot more interesting and complex.  But that would be Chapter 2 and I am sure you are not interested in those details. I did get back on flying status in 6 months and had one more tour in Vietnam as a Misty FAC and Ops officer.  I was fortunate later to be the DO of the 33rd TFW and Wing Commander of the 8th TFW in Korea.

  1. The Mae West was a common nickname for the first inflatable life preserver. The nickname originated because someone wearing the inflated life preserver often appeared to be as large-breasted as the actress Mae West. Air crew members whose lives were saved by use of the Mae West (and other personal flotation devices) were eligible for membership in the Goldfish Club.

Units Assigned

524th TFS

Awards & Decorations

 Silver Stars (4)  Distinguished Flying Crosses (3)  Legion of Merit (3)  Meritorious Service Medal  Air Medal (16)

Flight Info

F-100 F-4 T-28

Military Education

Civilian Education

Biography

Biography

  Charlie Summers – Stormy Weather I had a midair collision flying fighters. I was in a thunderstorm, so I guess that was my first introduction to the idea that ‘thunderstorms are bad; stay away from them.’ I had to fly one of two airplanes out of Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, and at that time the F-100 had no onboard radar. The number 2 and I were being vectored by our radar, and they vectored us right into a thunderstorm. I lost lead because hail had started breaking things off the airplane. When I heard the noise, I looked away for a split second to see how the engine was doing. The compressor had stalled with due to hail coming in the intake and when I looked back, we (the number 2 and I) weren’t together, and then — maybe 30 seconds later – we hit each other. It knocked the tail off his airplane and knocked part of the wing off the left side of mine — fortunately, we got both airplanes back to base. That was my first introduction to thunderstorms, and at that point, my attitude was “If there’s one in the county, be in the next state.” Little did I know what the future held for me and stormy weather. I grew up on a farm so I knew machinery and I knew farm work, and I knew I wanted to do something that wasn’t that hard. Every airplane that flew over made me think, ‘Now, that guy’s not working as hard as I am down here.’ I started flying in my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska, joined the Air Force ROTC, and by the time I had graduated I had a commercial pilot rating. Once I joined the Air Force it quickly got my attention that they flew a little more precisely that I had as a commercial civilian pilot, and I adjusted and spent 24 years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. After Air Force pilot training, I went to F-100s and I flew them for a long, long time — three tours in Vietnam — then I got some time in the F-4. I was wing commander in Korea, then I retired from the Air Force to go back to flying. My wife was still in the Air Force — she’s an Air Force nurse, retired now. I followed her around for a while, so I flew in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi before she retired. I flew mostly corporate and some flight training, just a little bit of everything, and then she got assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City. She liked it here, so she retired here and she let me stay with her. After I retired from the Air Force I began flying as a research scientist for the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, flying the T-28 which I’d flown in the Air Force. I flew thunderstorm penetration flights even though I had spent my life avoiding thunderstorms while flying. That one scrape at Cannon AFB confirmed that they were trouble. The first time I put the pointy end of the airplane toward a thunderstorm and went in, I thought, ‘This is not totally comfortable.’ But the airplane had been doing it — at that time for 16 years — and it never failed to get out on the other side, so all I had to do was fly it. The equipment is built and modified to be able to take it, so all I had to do was fly through it. After the first couple flights, my confidence built and I realized both the plane and I could handle the job. Source: Some quotes from an article in AVWeb by Joe Godfrey, April 16, 2003

Caterpillar Story

Caterpillar Story…The Security Blanket

I was flying no. 2 in a three ship with Dale Sprotberry in lead and Bob Finley as #3.  We dropped our bombs and made 3 or 4 strafe passes.  On my last strafe pass I got hit and started to stream hydraulic fluid or fuel.  I started a turn to the right toward the friendly Fort and Sprot called me to get out as I was at about 1500 feet in the right turn. My intent was to bailout near the Fort.  Then the stick froze and I couldn’t get out of the right turn or pull up.  I was in a slight descent with both feet on the instrument panel when I reached for the left seat handle with my right hand on the stick.  The canopy fired and I pulled the left seat trigger with my other hand, pulling back on the stick with my feet still on the instrument panel. (A note: I had just completed jump school a month or two before). I had my zero lanyard connected and I watched as I cleared the tail and went inverted when the butt snapper pushed me out of the seat; I would guess I was under 1000 feet.  I didn’t know that my .38 pistol grip was under my chest strap so when the chute opened the force broke one rib, couldn’t get my breath and started to vomit.  I remembered a story about a pilot drowning in his vomit so I took my mask off but still could not breathe because of the rib injury.  For some dumb reason, I inflated my Mae West1.  I then hit in a marsh with 10-foot scrub brush and a foot of water. My big problem was that during this whole bail out I had flown directly back into the target area we had just bombed.  I was getting ground fire which I thought was very inaccurate, but they were really shooting at the FAC overhead.   I quickly tried to get away from the chute and left the beeper in the chute in the ON mode. Now I couldn’t use guard channel and I found my escape was slowed by a broken back.  I had fractured 3 vertebrae in my back on the ejection and could now only crawl after I tried to run and hit a small tree twice. I had only lasted two steps before I couldn’t stand the pain anymore.  I was trying to move toward the Fort but had a long way to go and the bad guys were in between. I would have also had to swim a canal which would not have worked. I did have some company very close as I could hear him work the bolt on his bolt action single shot gun.  Thank heaven I was now away from the chute and in thick brush and water so I could hear anyone approaching. Suddenly, I heard the best sound a scared pilot can ever hear.  The cavalry was on the way as I could hear helicopters approaching from the West.  One was landing and the other was providing support fire around the
area. My day went from bad to worse as the first helo landed on the chute.  I saw it fly in the air and then complete silence as the helo pilot had just sucked my chute up in the main rotor and then the tail rotor and executed a quick dead stick landing.  I almost made a bad tactical error as I crawled up to the helo on the co-pilot side and quickly parted the grass and to my surprise was staring into the round end of an Army 45 with a very young scared co-pilot about to pull the trigger.  I was blonde with a crew cut but my face was beaten up a lot and bleeding but my famous words were “DON’T SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT”.  The A/C was relieved as he thought I was still in the chute. (I am here today because the Co-pilot wasn’t too trigger happy). At the time I’m feeling a little safer, somewhat, at least more fire power was available, as the door gunner/crew chief had an M-60.  The helo now held a South Vietnamese village chief, 250 pounds of rice, plus the three crew members and we weren’t going anywhere.  The A\C told the crew chief to stand on top of the helo and unwind the chute to which the crew chief replied, “ No, I don’t want to stand on top of a helo so the VC can have target practice!”  The A/C was then relieved to see the other helo land about 20 yards away to pick us all up. The entire herd headed for the other chopper and I have to crawl through brush, I’m not making very much headway so the crew chief came back and helped me get to the good helicopter.  Now there is even more firepower and a running helo but then the SVN village chief jumps out and starts back to the dead helo to get his suitcase. I witnessed an excellent combat decision as the door gunner fired his M-60 about 5 feet from him and he turned in mid-air and in two steps was back in our helo. I relaxed as my bad day was getting better.  We were really heavy but got airborne only to have two, helicopter eating trees, approaching ahead that and above us.  Our excellent Army pilot put our helo between both trees with little room to spare.  I don’t know where we landed but I was transferred to a Dust Off  Army Medavac helo and headed North to somewhere. I’m not sure how long the flight was as I kept passing out but we landed at an Army MASH unit and I was rushed into a tent with an X-ray machine. The troops cut off all my clothes.  You can’t imagine how alert and still I was when they cut my jockey shorts off.  At this point I have nothing on except my dog tags. I went into shock and could not stop shaking violently and am a very embarrassed fighter pilot, but the solution was a shot from the Doc. and I don’t know what it was but it’s effects had me trying to organize a posse to go back South and clean out the Delta of all those airplane-shooting Viet Cong.  Unfortunately, the Army discovered their X Ray machine was broken, so back in the helo I went, pressing on North to Tan Son Nhut Airbase and the Army Field Hospital.  We landed on the civilian airline terminal ramp where a Vietnamese airliner is loading passengers and we are met by my squadron’s flight surgeon and an Air Force ambulance. The next event was captured by a Stars and Stripes photographer and picture came out in the Air Force magazine.  The Army chopper crew chief told our flight surgeon that my naked body is wrapped in his last blanket and he can’t take off without at least one blanket.  I say that it is my blanket and I am not giving it up out here on the civilian terminal ramp.  The myth about fighter pilots was not going to revealed to be false by me so I had a death grip on my blanket. Our flight surgeon found a less than perfect blanket in the ambulance and the stalemate was broken and I am finally, happily on my way to the Army Field Hospital. I was taken back at Tan Son Nhut where my mission started but without one F-100D. The story continues from there, my medical experience lasted a few more weeks and became a lot more interesting and complex.  But that would be Chapter 2 and I am sure you are not interested in those details. I did get back on flying status in 6 months and had one more tour in Vietnam as a Misty FAC and Ops officer.  I was fortunate later to be the DO of the 33rd TFW and Wing Commander of the 8th TFW in Korea.

  1. The Mae West was a common nickname for the first inflatable life preserver. The nickname originated because someone wearing the inflated life preserver often appeared to be as large-breasted as the actress Mae West. Air crew members whose lives were saved by use of the Mae West (and other personal flotation devices) were eligible for membership in the Goldfish Club.
Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

524th TFS

Awards & Decorations

 Silver Stars (4)  Distinguished Flying Crosses (3)  Legion of Merit (3)  Meritorious Service Medal  Air Medal (16)

Flight Info

F-100 F-4 T-28

Military Education

Civilian Education

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